With the appearance of the new Windows OS, optimised for touch-sensitive displays, it was only logical to expect a torrent of devices with the same optimisation. Having in mind their huge product gamma, it’s no surprise that ASUS has decided to join the race, so we got their latest model, VivoBook S200, for testing purposes. With a 11.6” display, this notebook falls into the ultraportable category, and its design sticks to the Zenbook family values pretty faithfully. With the exception of the bottom cover and display frame, the entire case is made of ground aluminium, resulting in more weight that one might expect, which may bother users who expect ultraportable models to be equally ultra-light.

s200 steel gray 21 hand cover

On the other hand, the metal case gives the entire device a sense of firmness, so there’s no sign of bending, crackling or similar issues typical of plastic cases. The silver ASUS logo embellishes the back of the display, the colour of which is somewhat darker than the rest of the case. The display lid carries the main feature of this notebook – a touch-sensitive display. With a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels across a 11.6” diagonal, it’s a display with a very high pixel density, yielding a solid-looking desktop surface. Although it has a glare coating, reflection isn’t too much of an issue, especially with the exceptionally strong backlight, which compensates for this undesired effect to a certain extent. The viewing angles are only passable, since they really should’ve been a bit better, especially across the vertical axis.

s200 steel gray front open135

Touch sensitivity and precision are top-notch, with ASUS claiming numbers much better than Microsoft’s minimum specs. We’ve encountered no trouble with response and precision in real-world conditions, so we have nothing to reproach in this respect. The combination of a touch-sensitive display and a touchpad (which is necessary for more precise gestures) is an excellent match. The high display resolution is bound to cause an occasional need for the touchpad, even though Modern UI is entirely fit for “touching around”, even if you have fatt-- erm, thicker fingers. The only thing we didn’t appreciate is that all that touching of the display will often cause it to “vibrate”, because there’s no real support for it other than the elbow-mechanism used to position it, even when it’s fully open, so it’s possible that you’ll see the consequences of each contact for several additional seconds. Unlike the Transformer tablet, which had a similar problem, all electronics is contained in the bottom section here, making this effect less pronounced, thereby reducing the possibility of the entire device falling on its back when you’re pressing against the display.

s200 steel gray right back open s200 steel gray left open135 top

The section protected by the lid (when closed) contains only the keyboard, touchpad and power button. In a word – it’s all very reminiscent of Zenbook, with the black keyboard contrasting the silver metal case, with a spacious touchpad and integrated buttons. The power button is housed in the upper right corner, while the right-hand edge, somewhat lower, contains the indicator LEDs, two of which are open from the frontal direction as well, so that you can see their status even with the lid down.

s200 steel gray keypad sThe keyboard is comfortable, with a well-balanced key step and sufficient spacing, while the cursor keys may take a while to get comfortable with, as they’re much smaller than the rest. The touchpad’s design is in line with the new OS, with a large surface at level with the rest of the case and with buttons integrated into it, which makes it much easier to use all the gestures implemented in Windows 8.

The model we received contained a ULV Core i3 CPU, which is the strongest version, whereas Pentium- and Celeron-based models are out there too, typically with less RAM and a smaller HDD. You can definitely expect entirely comfortable work in Windows, while gaming will be limited to older “serious” titles, which doesn’t stop you from playing fresh, touch-optimised casual games that usually cooperate well with weaker graphics cards. Owing to the power-saving hardware features, the smallish two-cell lithium-polymer battery with a capacity of 38 Wh will give you anywhere between two and a half and five and a half hours of autonomy, depending on load, which should be enough for most users to get from one power plug to the next.
s200 steel gray left side

ASUS VivoBook S200
CPU Intel Core i3 3217U 1.8 GHz 2C/4T, 17W
Chipset Intel Ivy Bridge
Memory 4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz (single channel, integrated on board)
HDD 500 GB
Graphics Intel GMA HD4000
Display 11.6'', 1366x768 pix, glare
Interfaces 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, LAN, audio in/out, SD/MMC reader
Additional Bluetooth 4.0, HD web camera, 802.11 b/g/n, SonicMaster speakers
Dimension and weight 303 x 200 x 21.7 mm; 1.40 kg
OS Windows 8 64-bit
Battery 2 cell (5136 mAh, 38 Wh) Polymer Battery
Price 535 €

s200 steel gray 21 sNoise and heating needn’t concern you with this model, since the cooling system is based on two openings, one on the lid elbow and one on the bottom. The main contributor to this state of affairs is the ULV CPU, which heats considerably less than some of its counterparts, as obvious from the charts; even after several hours of full load, the CPU temperature couldn’t go any higher than 40 or so degrees, while the exhaust measured a peak temperature of 48 degrees.

Temperature Front Display  Front
34.3°C 41.6°C 31°C
Left 31.8°C 39.5°C 29.7°C Right
28.2°C 29.2°C 27.8°C
Back Display Back
31.8°C 41.3°C 40.2°C
Left 30.4°C 35.8°C 34.8°C Right
26.9°C 29°C 27.9°C
Max Temp:  48.6°C

The thing that we found particularly pleasing is the brilliant speakers. Honestly, we would’ve expected them in a 17” model, but not our tiny VivoBook with a minimal amount of room to serve as sound box. The implemented SonicMaster technology really does wonders, it seems, with the two stereo drivers, one on each side, definitely not to be disregarded, since they manage to fill even spacious rooms with sound.
s200 steel gray 23 hand

Test results
3DMark 11 Performance Score/Graphic/Physics/Combined P367 / 324 / 1784 / 307
PCMark 7 Score 2066
7-Zip 9.20 x64 compression/decompression [KB/s] 4716 / 57173
Blender [sec] 711
Cinebench R11.5 x64 OpenGL [fps]/CPU/CPU (Single Core) [pts] 7.44 / 1.59 / 0.72
HD Tune Pro 5.0 average read [MB/s] 76.2
Powermark Balanced / Productivity / Entertainment 3h 21' / 5h 24' / 2h 38'
1366x768 0xAA 0xAF
Heaven benchmark 3.0 tess off, shaders med [fps] 7
Resident Evil 5 DX10 med [fps] 15
Lost Planet 2 DX11 Test B med [fps] 11.3
Street Fighter IV low [fps] 35.3

The only real drawback of this model actually has little to do with ASUS. Of course, we’re talking about the operating system, which is far from polished. A bunch of bugs, blue screens, ill-optimised apps and illogical solutions have become Windows 8’s undeniable reality. Whether Microsoft will attempt to fix all these or leave the OS to its fate as they did with Vista remains to be seen. On the other hand, ASUS have created a most interesting product that bridges the gap between notebooks and touch-sensitive devices. The weaker, but also significantly cheaper versions on the market are just as good in their primary purpose, making this model an accessible ticket to a whole new world of a full Windows 8 experience. It’s questionable how many users will take a liking to this description, though, since it’s a very specific market niche, after all, but if anything, this notebook’s quality is undeniable, and the credit goes entirely to ASUS.